Salvo 06.12.2020 9 minutes

Senator Tom Cotton Takes On the Woke Mob

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The New York Times and cancel culture versus America.

Senator Tom Cotton (R-AR) delivered a strong rebuke to ‘cancel culture,’ the censorship of any media or business that doesn’t conform to a specific set of extreme left-wing ideologies. We are pleased to present the full text of his speech here.—Eds.

Cancel culture.

We hear that in the news a lot these days. The idea that we all need safe spaces from mean words—trigger warnings on op-eds or T.V. shows—that might constitute a micro aggression.

This is the language of the campus social-justice seminar, but increasingly it’s the language of our workplace and our culture.

We saw an instance of it just last week at the New York Times. I published an op-ed there that said simply, while we respect peaceful protesters, we can have zero tolerance for looting and rioting. And if the police are overwhelmed or outnumbered, the National Guard—and, if necessary, federal troops—have to restore order.

It’s got support from a large majority of Americans, if you believe the polls. New York Times published it. The editorial page editor defended it publicly. The publisher defended the decision publicly, but a child mob at the New York Times rose up and demanded heads on pikes.

They demanded the op-ed be taken down. They demanded that the grown-ups—maybe I should say the supposed grown-ups—who run the New York Times apologize, and that is exactly what happened.

In what can only be called a struggle session from the Cultural Revolution in the greatest traditions of Mao, the publisher of the New York Times fired the editorial page editor and reassigned the deputy editorial page editor. He apologized, prostrating himself in front of the woke child mob, and he said that we’ll do much better. And the new editorial page editor has told everyone at the Times, if you see anything that gives you the slightest pause, please contact me immediately. If you have any trigger warnings, don’t worry, I’ll find a safe space for you.

I mean, the New York Times has made itself a laughingstock, but this is no laughing matter because cancel culture threatens the very principles of free inquiry and open debate upon which our society is based. And you see other manifestations of cancel culture all across the country today.

In many cases they have adopted the spirit of a Jacobin mob in the French Revolution, the Reign of Terror trying to completely erase our culture and our history. Unfortunately, many Democrats are vying to be the Robespierre for this Jacobin mob.

Look at what’s happening in Seattle. Revolutionaries, anarchists have taken over city government buildings. They have taken over neighborhoods; they’ve declared themselves an autonomous zone. They put up a sign that says you’re leaving the United States when you enter this autonomous zone.

The Democratic Party today—I suppose—is still the party of secession. But it’s not just in Seattle. Look at what’s happening to statues and monuments all around our country. In several cities, statues to Christopher Columbus have been pulled down, or they’ve been defaced or destroyed. Statues that in most cases were put up by Italian-American immigrants who were proud of their part in the great American story.

This was not done in accordance with law. It was not done after thoughtful debate in city councils or state legislatures. It was done by mobs. Just last week, the Lincoln Memorial, a temple to the Great Emancipator, was defaced. The World War II Memorial, a memorial to those who fought and liberated the world from fascism, was defaced.

Now, across the Atlantic, the ideological kin of this Jacobin mob defaced statues of Churchill—wait until they hear about what the other guy did, on the other side.

But you know, history is not the long suit of these woke children. They didn’t take history classes apparently in high school and college. They were too busy taking social justice seminars.

You can see that, too, in Philadelphia. The statue of Matthias Baldwin was defaced. Matthias Baldwin was a committed and devoted abolitionist, who funded education for freed African Americans, who gave them jobs. And they defaced his statue.

Even more amazing, in Boston, the Shaw Memorial was defaced. The Shaw Memorial honors the 54th Massachusetts Regiment—the first African-American regiment formed after the Emancipation Proclamation—whose bravery and valor in battle on behalf of the Union cause was memorialized in the movie ‘Glory.’ Yet it was defaced by these mobs.

It’s not just our history, it’s pop culture and entertainment too. You may have seen the news that ‘Live PD’ and ‘Cops,’ television shows, were canceled.

‘Paw Patrol’ was on the cutting board too. You may know that Chase is the police cop in ‘Paw Patrol.’ There’s calls to euthanize the police dog on social media. I wish I could say I’m joking, but I’m not.

Legos has announced that they are not going to advertise any of their police Lego sets for the next year. They’re not going to take them out of distribution. They’re not going to recall them from stores, no, no. Woke capitalism only go so far, they’re still capitalists. They’re just not going to advertise police sets anymore.

HBO has announced they’re not going to run ‘Gone with The Wind’ anymore. ‘Gone with The Wind,’ for which African-American actress Hattie McDaniel won the first Academy Award, the first Oscar ever given to an African-American woman. HBO says, no, we’re going to cancel it.

If you think it’s just limited to statues or to T.V. shows or to toys, you’d be wrong. This woke mob could very soon be coming for any one of you. At UCLA, a college professor has been suspended, and he’s under police investigation because he declined to postpone final exams, so students could apparently go participate in protests.

Another professor is being investigated for reading aloud from Martin Luther King, Jr.’s ‘Letter from a Birmingham Jail’ because it uses offensive language.

Martin Luther King, Jr.’s ‘Letter from a Birmingham Jail.’

A professional soccer player, Aleksandar Katai, was fired for his wife’s tweet—not his own—his wife’s tweet.

Multiple different business executives and editors at newspapers and magazines have been fired.

If you think this is only for people who are not powerful and not rich, you’d be wrong. Ivanka Trump was scheduled to give a commencement speech last weekend at a Wichita technical school. Speech was canceled because she was deemed too controversial. Speech about workforce training and women’s opportunities in our economy. Ivanka Trump, canceled.

So, where does this cancel culture take us? What is the logical conclusion? What is the end of the cancel culture?

I will tell you what it is. It is right here, in this city, Washington, District of Columbia. That’s where it will end, if we don’t put an end to the madness now. Just up the mall is the Washington Monument. Are we going to tear the Washington Monument down? Are we going to rename it the obelisk of wokeness?

Up the hill is the Washington National Cathedral where so many times we have gathered as a nation over the years to mourn our great leaders, to pray for God’s protection and deliverance in moments of national strife and struggle. Are we going to rename the Washington National Cathedral the Temple of Reason, as the Jacobins did to Notre Dame during the French Revolution?

What are we going to call this city? Can’t call it Washington, can’t call it Columbia. Got to come up with new names all around.

Because, I will say this, cancel culture, whether in its Maoist or its Jacobin forms, ultimately is animated by a single idea—that America at its core is fundamentally irredeemable and wicked. I reject that claim fully, wholeheartedly.

America is a great and noble nation, the noblest nation in the history of mankind that has struggled throughout our history—imperfectly—but ceaselessly to live up to our founding creed, that all men are created equal. The single greatest defense against tyranny, against racism, against oppression. These are the stakes of this debate.

The American Mind presents a range of perspectives. Views are writers’ own and do not necessarily represent those of The Claremont Institute.

The American Mind is a publication of the Claremont Institute, a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization, dedicated to restoring the principles of the American Founding to their rightful, preeminent authority in our national life. Interested in supporting our work? Gifts to the Claremont Institute are tax-deductible.

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